By: Lauren Dellarocco
No matter the industry of a company, workplace communication is imperative for getting any job done efficiently. Effective communication between team members and leaders can ensure that projects are running smoothly, milestones are met, employees are satisfied, and the work environment is highly productive.
What is workplace communication?
Workplace communication is any and all communication in the work environment, in the form of written communication (e.g. emails, memos, text messages), verbal communication (e.g. meetings, conversations, voicemails), and even non-verbal communication, such as body language and facial expressions. Effective communication occurs when the objective and intention of the communication was delivered consistently and thoroughly to the recipient.
For a company or organization to operate as efficiently as possible, effective workplace communication must be in place. Between software programs, video chats, phone calls, emails, conferences, meetings, and face-to-face conversations, workplace communication is a multifaceted reality that is guaranteed to impact a company. Effective workplace communication can take a company to the next level, while poor workplace communication can completely inhibit a company’s success.
Determined by a Salesforce study among a group of corporate executives, employees, and educators, 86% said ineffective workplace communication leads to workplace failures.
Why is workplace communication important?
Effective workplace communication leads to higher work productivity.
When effective workplace communication is present, employees have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them, what their specific role is in any given project, which areas they perform well in, and where they can perform better.
Communication throughout projects can ensure that deadlines are met, goals are achieved, ideas are shared, feedback is provided, and processes are continually refined for the better.
With good communication, holes in business strategies and processes will rise to the surface. Problems are communicated, which allows solutions to emerge and processes to be refined to operate as efficiently as possible. Conversations are productive and focused, leaving little room for miscommunication or confusion.
Employees who feel encouraged to communicate openly will ask questions, request feedback, seek clarification, and think of creative solutions. The ability to communicate effectively with open communication and a focused purpose can enable high performers in any team.
Effective workplace communication leads to happier employees and reduced employee turnover rates.
Effective communication between employees and leaders shows employees that their feedback, ideas and thoughts are valued, and their voices are heard. When employees, managers, and leaders commit to open communication with each other, healthy relationships can form. Leaders who show interest in employees’ wellbeing, inside and outside of work, create a positive work environment of happy, engaged employees.
When there is good communication and high employee engagement, employees have a higher job satisfaction and a greater will to remain with a company. Team members who feel that their feedback isn’t respected or considered are likely to find another company that does value their feedback.
When Workplace Communication Suffers
Workplace communication can suffer when individuals don’t see the value in effective communication, when leaders don’t communicate directly or consistently with employees, when communication styles differ, and when managers and leaders don’t listen to their employees. These communication barriers can severely hinder productivity and employee job satisfaction.
Leaders and managers of companies should not assume that their employees have effective workplace communication skills. Assuming that employees and team members already have a certain level of workplace communication skills can leave room for miscommunication and misunderstanding. When new employees join a company, it’s important to provide clear expectations of how team members communicate as well as introducing employees to the technologies used for communication.
Lack of communication in the workplace discourages employees from sharing thoughts and ideas. It stunts the flow of creativity and innovation, which hinders brainstorming processes and problem solving.
Surveys conducted by Harris Poll concluded that a whopping 69% of managers feel uncomfortable communicating with employees, and 37% of managers feel uncomfortable giving direct feedback to employees about their performance.
When you consider the importance of effective workplace communication and the negative impact that poor communication can have on a workforce, these statistics are astonishing.
Why do so many managers feel uncomfortable communicating with employees? This doesn’t necessarily mean that these managers aren’t effective leaders, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to improve their communication. It means there’s a workplace communication crisis happening.
Managers, leaders, and employees just aren’t quite sure how to communicate effectively. Maybe they haven’t been introduced to the right tools that help to facilitate communication in the workplace, and maybe they aren’t quite sure of the true value in clear, open communication in the workplace.
So, what can we do to move the needle and address this workplace communication crisis?
The answer: educate ourselves, our team members, and our employees.
Know why workplace communication is so important and know what you can do to facilitate clear-cut, thorough communication in the workplace.
Here are 5 tips for improving workplace communication:
1. Pay attention to body language.
Body language can be more honest and telling than verbal or written communication. Our body cues and responses can indicate that we’re confused, unhappy, stressed, nervous, excited, discouraged, confident, and everything in between. Employees may communicate through body language, unconsciously or consciously. That’s what makes this form of communication so valuable in the workplace.
Minor nuances in body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can communicate what someone’s words are not communicating. Consider a team member’s body language alongside their verbal and written communication for a full-spectrum understanding of the message delivered or received.
Making eye contact, avoiding eye contact, standing tall, slouching over: these are all examples of nonverbal communication and body language indicators that often occur in the workplace and should be taken into consideration.
2. Communicate thoroughly during training.
Open communication on both the employee and employer’s end during training is crucial for setting the tone of what’s to come and how employees can expect to communicate with their team moving forward. Every organization implements different communication tactics, based on company size, work culture, and business objectives. Communicate with new employees and ensure that they understand which communication technologies to use and how to use them, how to immerse themselves with the company culture, and what communication practices are in place (e.g. virtual meetings, in-person meetings, check-ins, etc.). Give new employees the thorough low-down on all communication channels used in the workplace.
During training, encourage new employees to use open communication with their team and employers. Communicating openly can lead to fresh ideas, as employees can be more creative and confident when they don’t feel stifled or thwarted by their peers. Open communication can also lead to employee retention, as employees feel that their thoughts and contributions are valued and heard by their team members and leaders. Setting the standard for communication during initial employee training can save countless hours of miscommunication in the future.
3. Adopt communication software programs.
No matter the size of a business, communication software programs can keep communications streamlined and productive. Many organizations use communication software that are customized to fulfill specific objectives. Employee benefits communication journeys are used to enable a guided, personalized communication experience on topics such as health benefits, compensation, and wellness. Similarly, to improve the employee experience, talent management software are customized communication journeys used to improve employee engagement and increase the effectiveness of talent and performance management initiatives.
Software that streamline communications to reach team members and employees of all departments are ideal for maintaining consistent, thorough communication. With countless communication platforms and social media available nowadays, it’s more important than ever to keep communication as smooth and simplified as possible. There’s no room for confusion in the workplace. Using numerous channels, separate locations and programs for communication can lead to confusion, missed communications that never reach the recipient, missed deadlines, missed milestones, and so on.
4. Schedule regular check-ins with team members.
Encourage open communication to gain genuine perspective on the experiences of other employees, departments, and leaders. Encourage open communication, free of criticizing or stifling remarks. Responding with negative feedback or disinterest can discourage team members from expressing themselves again, so be sure to have some compassion and patience in your communication style. The communication processes of every company will differ, as work culture and workforce size vary from business to business.
According to a Globoforce study, “89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are key for successful outcomes.”
Check-ins enable employees to voice any concerns. These routine meetings can come in the form of employee satisfaction surveys, informal lunch discussions, or structured one-on-one meetings. They show employees that their satisfaction, progress and betterment are important to and valued by the company, which improves employee engagement and employee productivity.
5. Follow up verbal communication with written communication.
We’ve all been there; after an hour-long meeting, we’ve gained as much knowledge as our brains can hold, and we realize that we still have questions. Maybe a day passes, and you realize you didn’t retain as many details as you thought you initially did. This is inevitable! After all, our brains can only retain so much information at once.
Research by Learning Solutions determines that within an hour, people forget about 50% of the information they heard. Within 24 hours, we forget about 70% of the information we heard, and after a week, we forget a whopping 90% of new information.
A small summary, even just a few words or sentences, can trigger our brains to recall memories and recently-acquired knowledge or information. Team members should practice writing down the verbal communication they received to have an accurate recording that they can skim over to refresh their minds. Leaders should also practice writing down the messages they present to the team to keep information as consistent as possible.
Without good communication, team members may feel confused with their specific objectives and the overarching objectives in a company. Ill-defined goals and milestones lead to poor productivity, missed deadlines, decreased employee motivation, lost profits, and high employee turnover rates.
Any company that develops a successful internal communications strategy is sure to see a positive return in profits and employee retention. The positive outcomes of efficient workplace communication can be groundbreaking with greater productivity, happier employees, and conducive, straightforward conversations that increase overall productivity and employee engagement.